Having won Wimbledon in 2004 and the US Open in 2006, Sharapova appeared set to challenge the powerful Williams sisters, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, in years to come for tennis' top titles after winning last year's Australian Open last January in an overwhelming fashion.
Sharapova, playing her best tennis in years, won the Melbourne championship without dropping a set during the two week event. Sharapova and the Williams sisters are the only active WTA Tour players to win a grand slam tournament without the loss of a set.
However after following her Melbourne win with tournament victories in Doha, Qatar and Amelia Island, South Carolina, Sharapova failed to advance past the semifinals of any of her remaining five tournaments last year.
But despite the Russian's shoulder injury, she would finish 2008 with a 32-4 WTA Tour record and a WTA Tour singles ranking of nine.
During her period of tournament inactivity however, Sharapova's ranking plummeted to her current ranking of 65. It is not yet clear if the WTA Tour will grant Sharapova a special injury seeding for a number of tournaments upon her return.
In 1994 at age six with her only her father, Sharapova left Europe for Florida to train at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy; neither with any knowledge of the English language or with much money.
The Russian, known today for her extreme aggressive baseline game and swing volleys which are more often than not punctuated with loud grunts, has parlayed her mix of winning tennis and glamorous looks into an immense marketability for earnings of more than $23 million per year.
"I want to thank all my die hard fans who never stopped believing in me," Sharapova said earlier today. "Your
letters and messages have been truly inspirational and something that I always looked back to when I had the low moments. I know it is going to take me a while to get back into the groove of playing tournaments and matches, but I am so excited to be competing again."